The ground pounders of the western frontier will take to the clay and open their season this coming weekend, and there’s a few new twists on top for 2016 as the Bicknell Race Products Modified Tour kicks off their 18th season.
For those not yet fully enlightened, the modified tour stands as the only organized series for the drivers in the western PA, eastern OH, and Niagara regions, and sees both fully loaded big block and 358 competitors from each of them. The rules are simple, if it’s legal where you race weekly, it’s a legal car within the series. The series is unique in that it not only hosts special events for drivers to compete for higher purses, it also provides fans a glimpse of the modifieds at places that don’t normally offer them and full fields at that.
The BRP modified tour is also a good example of how not for profit sanctions can manage costs and yet still provide increased purses and a reasonable point fund as well, something that never existed for the modifieds in the area before the tour’s arrival on the scene in 1998. It recently made our list of four series you can’t miss that are completely wallet friendly!
So what’s in store for the coming season? It’s anybody’s guess as far as outcomes on the track goes, or even for what invaders might wander into the territory on a given night. But using history and intuition as our guide (yeah, we’ve got a little intuition, bought some week!), here’s a little glimpse of what to expect.
Now lets check out the guys defending home turf!
#65 Rex King Sr: The elder statesman among Kings took home his sixth championship in 2015 and rolls into the season as the favorite, but it may be tougher for him to take home the trophy in 2016. You’ve got to be good, and lucky to win this thing, and some variable factors, most notably the improvement of other drivers in the area will make the task harder for King Sr to repeat this season.
#165 Rex King Jr: King Jr had a good season in 2015 but was hampered by some bad luck at critical moments and with around 10 races a year in this tour, you’ve got to be there at the end of them and win where you can. Odds are this year that he’s in contention as the last race at Sharon takes the green flag, the only question will be whether he’ll need a podium finish, a win, or just to finish the race.
#777 Kevin Bolland: Mr. Bolland shook off some rust as his comeback started in 2015, but got better with every week and by the end of the season it was clear that he was returning to form. It’s too early to call him a title contender for sure at this point, but he knows how to get the job done and may be a great dark horse pick to take it all in 2016.
#37MD Jeremiah Shingledecker: He’s got the skill, knowledge and experience to make it happen, now he just needs the luck to turn his way after two seasons that have seen him run as fast as anybody even if he’s been as unlucky as we’ve seen any driver in recent memory. If he can get a win early on and carry some momentum, there’s no reason he can’t win this thing.
#61Dave Murdick: The former tour champion seemingly takes his game to another level for BRP events. He can sometimes run hot and cold, but when he’s on, he’s capable of rattling off back to back wins and vaulting himself to the top of the standings
#11 Brad Rapp: The western PA version of the Dr will be at most if not all tour dates and will be a significant player in the standings. With an expanded schedule in 2016, he’ll be able to gain more seat time and feel more comfortable again after running a reduced schedule these past two seasons. That being said, Rapp has what it takes to finish on the podium come September, and will most likely get his coveted first tour victory this season!
|Pat Miller Photo|
#29 Garrett Krummert: The former super late model driver was reborn in the modifieds last year with a competitive car and a fresh attitude. He garnered his first career Lernerville win in 2015, and will be a podium threat at every race he attends this season for sure!
#13 Rick Regalski: Regalski seemingly keeps getting better year after year and is now to the point that he is a top 10 threat every time he runs. It wouldn’t surprise us to see him with a few top fives in 2016.
Other area drivers we’ll see:
|Pat Miller Photo|
#83 Brian Swartzlander: We most likely won’t see “Flyin Brian” at all tour events, but definitely at some of them and he’ll be a handful to contend with.
#45 Steve Feder: As with Shingledecker, Feder has the goods to run with these guys, but needs the luck. He’s not to be overlooked and has a tour win under his belt.
And now for the invaders…
#88 Shayne Pierce: Welland, Ontario’s Shayne Pierce has thrown his hat into the ring, and he’ll be a formidable presence to be sure. The 358 driver had been calling Merrittville Speedway home in recent years and purchased a big block in the offseason. He’s been very solid in 358 action and has some experience at some of the tracks in the area. He’s raced at Lernerville a few times and has looked impressive. He could be a darkhorse to keep your eye on.
#13 Rick Richner: The veteran 358 wheel man calls Ransomville home on Friday and can be found at Sharon Speedway on Saturdays. He came home in fifth place in 2015 and should be at most if not all tour events in 2016 and was an upset winner at Sharon Speedway in 2013 at Applefest.
#21 Randy Chrysler: The venerable lacrosse coach from Tuscorora, New York is amazingly fun to watch and should partake in a few events on the tour. He’s a true outlaw, running wherever and whenever he pleases and with any luck and the right set of circumstances can find victory lane anywhere on the tour.
#25 Erick Rudolph: We didn’t think we’d see as much of Rudolph as we were going to in 2015, but he turned up several times and of course will be a threat to win whenever he does join in the fun. It’s hard to say that he’d do the whole thing, he’s a true outlaw for sure. But if he got off to a good start in the first couple of races, it’s not inconceivable to believe that he might just stick around for the whole thing. With an SDS win and several other big wins under his belt, he’s a superstar in the making and more than capable of winning a couple of these as he won at Expo and Tri City last season.
|Pat Miller Photo|
#6m Mat Williamson: The defending Lernerville track champion probably won’t be in the mix for a championship this year as his schedule will keep him at Canandaigua on Saturday’s, but you can expect a few appearances on the schedule from the Canadian sensation. And at those races, he’ll be a threat to win when he is available.
Schedule- click on dates for track websites
Saturday March 26: Mercer Raceway Park
Saturday April 16: Sharon Speedway- Hartford, OH
Friday July 1: Raceway 7- Conneaut, OH
Saturday July 9; Sharon Speedway- Hartford, OH- Lou Blaney Memorial
Thursday July 14; Expo Fairgrounds Speedway; Trumbull Co, OH
Saturday July 16: Pittsburgh Pennsylvania’s Motor Speedway
Saturday August 13: Mercer Raceway Park
Sunday August 14: Tri City Raceway Park
Sunday September 4: Eriez Speedway- Hammet, NY
Friday Septmber 9; Stateline Speedway- Busti, NY
Saturday September 17: Sharon Speedway; Hartford, OH- Russ King Memorial
And when we looked into the crystal ball we saw this as the top five.
1. Rex King Jr.
2. Rex King Sr.
3. Kevin Bollland
4. Brad Rapp
5. Jeremiah Shingledecker